First Fleet Surgeon: The Voyage of Arthur Bowes Smyth
David Hill


Paperback | May 2015 | National Library of Australia | 9780642278623 | 224pp | 250x220mm | Stocked item (plenty) | GEN | AUD$34.99, NZD$42.99


In a single leather-bound volume of 238 unlined pages of parchment, Surgeon Arthur Bowes Smyth describes his two-and-a-half year journey with the First Fleet from Portsmouth in England to the new colony in Australia and back. He is a frank, articulate and observant writer, and his diary, a treasure of the National Library of Australia, covers life at sea, stopovers in the slave port of Rio de Janeiro and the tropical paradise of Tahiti, and three months of early settlement in Australia.

As surgeon to more than 100 convict women on the Lady Penrhyn, Bowes Smyth gives an insight into the plight of these women, sentenced to transportation, and their children. 

In First Fleet Surgeon, author David Hill brings to life the voyage of the Lady Penrhyn and the early months of settlement at Port Jackson (modern-day Sydney) through Bowes Smyth’s colourful language and frank anecdotes. Each chapter includes a page of Bowes Smyth’s handwritten diary entries accompanied by a full transcript, and is richly illustrated with paintings, lithographs and maps from the National Library of Australia’s collection. Information boxes on subjects such as eighteenth-century medical knowledge, brewing beer on board, and a surgeon’s typical day provide context to Bowes Smyth’s story.